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Dreams, Dreamers And Dreamwork

Practical Dreamwork

          Dreams have fascinated me for most of my life, drawing me into the field of psychology when I was a high school student.  My father would share his dreams at the breakfast table, usually without much comment as to their content.  Like the dreams themselves, these conversations evaporated as the early morning mist vanishes when the sun comes out; but in retrospect it is clear that they had a profound effect on me.  The implication from Dad was that  something important  was embedded in his dream, and even if he could not fathom the meaning he valued the experience.  I entertain this attitude toward dreams today, my own dreams and those of my clients.

          A more methodical approach to dreams came from Papa Freud as I devoured his    “A General Introduction To Psychoanalysis”. I bought the book thinking that it contained pornographic pictures and brought it home furtively, hiding it under my coat until I was safe in my room.  Although disappointed in the absence of pictorial stimulation, I began reading.  The first section on the psychopathology of everyday life was interesting, but the following section on dreams was absolutely fascinating. Although nothing much in my outer life changed as a result of this reading, an inner die had been cast.

          Dreams were not mentioned in the psychology courses that I took for my bachelors’ degree due to the parochial experimental attitude that reigned at Brooklyn College at the time.  Dreams were largely ignored in the graduate courses that I took, but this time out of a sense of mystification. Everyone  agreed that they were important messages from the unconscious, but nobody knew what to do with them.  My first therapist paid no special heed to dreams, although he seemed to respect them in a vague sort of way.  Fritz Perls and the gestaltists that I encountered were the first therapists who could contend with dreams in a creative fashion.  My second therapist, a Jungian analyst, initiated me into a radically different approach to dreams, stressing the homeostatic, compensatory function.

          Over the years I have formulated a few ideas about dreams based on my reading on the subject and the dreams that my clients have shared with me.  All of these ideas hinge on the notion that the dream comes to reveal rather than to hide, and that it is compensatory to our conscious attitude and seeks to bring us into greater balance in our lives.  The goal is not adjustment in the narrow sense, but rather greater individuation or being more truly the person who we really are.  Since the dream speaks in the mytho-poetic idiom and we are generally encapsulated within our ego attitudes, it is very difficult for us to interpret our own dreams and the dreamer needs an external perspective in helping him understand his dream.  Thus, from the earliest recordings of dreams in the Bible and pre-biblical literature, the dreamer is assisted by an interpreter.  Joseph, for example, was the super-star of dream interpreters in the Old Testament.

          The term “dream interpreter” is misleading because it is actually the dreamer that we want to interpret, not the dream.  Our challenge is to understand the issue that the dream is addressing and where the dream wants to take the dreamer.  The phenomenology of dreams is limitless, ranging from a single concept, image or awareness to epic sagas of many acts replete with rich details and arabesque turnings of plot.  Although the dreamer will often relate the dream to some event of the previous day, Freud’s “day residue”, I generally assume that the opening scene of the dream states the issue that is being addressed.  For example, if the first scene of a dream is that I am walking with my wife, the issue being addressed in the dream is my marriage; if the first scene involves a school image the dream is presenting me with an issue of learning that I need to address.

          The ending of the dream or the final scene is an indication of where the dream wants to take me.  Most dreams seem to have a prospective intent, guiding us to a development in our quest for wholeness, and the final scene of the dream is often an indication of this direction, like an arrow indicating a trajectory.

           At the core of our being is imagery. Language is an epiphenomenon built within and among images. Dreams are the most potent point of access to the unconscious. Profound healing can come from understanding dreams and acting on their guidance. I integrate Jungian psychology, phenomenology, and intuition into skills for working with dreams.

           In my dream groups we spend the first hour developing a framework for dream interpretation: Topics include: A brief history of dream interpretation; an overview of Jung’s model of the psyche; and why this model is the best for learning to understand the function and interpretation of dreams. I also discuss cultivating intuition as guide in work with dreams. We usually spend the second half of the meeting working on specific dreams. Our work will model a process of working with dreams. 

23 Harakevet St Baaka, Jerusalem 93502 Israel Tel.972-2-6734360  Cell. 054-6912360   Fax. 972-2-6713032

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